Dr.K.Murali, Chief Editor, Publications Division, Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal
The principles of epidemiology evolved in Ayurveda since the period of Charaka (2nd Cen. AD.) Janapadodhvamsaneeya (janapada-human settlements, udhvamsa– that which uproots), a chapter in his text, narrates details of the occurrence of epidemics or pandemics, the causative factors, impact and preventive methods. These concepts are still found to be relevant. Later, other Acharyas added their own inputs to this. Tridosha theory enabled Ayurveda to interpret the disease if it is newer in character.
In the last century when public health systems were not strong, Ayurveda physicians intervened during the times of epidemics. Some of them even formulated specific medicines to remedy the disease. One such example is of Vaidyaratnam P.S.Varier (1869-1944), the torchbearer of the renaissance movement in Kerala. Soon after establishing the Arya Vaidya Sala during the cholera outbreaks in early 1903, he visited the affected areas and distributed leaflets on the dos and don’ts to prevent the spread of the disease. He also distributed medicines to people free of cost. Even during periods of smallpox, several Vaidyas were involved in such activities. This helped to limit the number of casualties to some extent, before the advent of the vaccine. There can be similar instances in other parts of India, which haven’t been documented in history.
Another collective public intervention was at Thiruvananthapuram in 1934. This was for malaria. Staff and students of Government Ayurveda College, under the leadership of then Principal Dr.K.G.Gopala Pillai, conducted medical camps at the areas affected with even inpatient facilities. This was appreciated by the public and the media.
Coming to the current scenario, the Central AYUSH Department had prepared Guidelines for Ayurvedic practitioners for Covid-19. The All India Institute of Ayurveda also started treatment wards with all safety measures. Even though there were similar efforts in some other States, it is only in Kerala that a massive public health intervention was organized by the State Government. A State Ayurveda Covid-19 Response Cell was formed with experts in the field. Different schemes were designed after elaborate discussions—like the Svasthyam (preventive measures for people below 60 years), Sukhayushyam (for those above 60 years),Amritham(Medications during quarantine period), Bheshajam (treatment for uncomplicated cases) and Punarjani (Post Covid care) projects. There was an organized implementation framework involving Local Self-Government. The delivery of medicines was streamlined through Ayur-raksha clinics at all Govt. Ayurvedic Dispensaries/Hospitals throughout the state. All these projects are with Public Private Participation. Experts from Arya Vaidya Sala participated in the discussions to formulate the strategy. It also contributed medicines to the project.
Drug research is of utmost importance to establish the efficacy of Ayurvedic medicines. Arya Vaidya Sala could move forward in this direction. Initial Researches at Centre for Medicinal Plants Research (CMPR) of Arya Vaidya Sala have identified certain molecules that have anti-viral (SARS Corona Virus 2) properties in some of the classical medicines like Indukantha ghritha, Mukkamukkadukadi gutika, and Vilvadi gudika, which are widely used in the treatment of Covid-19. The outcome of this research has been included in the U.S. National Health Institute’s PublicHealth Emergency collections(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7799399). Further research collaborations are being planned with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
The AryaVaidya Sala also runs Post-Covid Clinics in all of its branches, where trained doctors prescribe medicines to the patients, considering all their general and specific manifestations. Details, including response to the treatment, are being documented for a systematic analysis.